Live updates: On Juneteenth, Trump honors 'indomitable spirit' of Black Americans; Louisville officer to be fired

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  • 2020-06-19 20:18:05Z
Live updates: On Juneteenth, Trump honors \
Live updates: On Juneteenth, Trump honors \'indomitable spirit\' of Black Americans; Louisville officer to be fired  

President Donald Trump issued a statement Friday honoring the "indomitable spirit of African Americans" as the nation celebrates Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery.

Juneteenth is a state or ceremonial holiday in 47 states and Washington, D.C., and is being marked by peaceful demonstrations, rallies and celebrations. This year, it is playing out against a backdrop of nationwide protests, marches and legal action following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by a white police officer in Minneapolis last month.

The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver a keynote address at a Juneteenth celebration in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white mob destroyed the "Black Wall Street" in 1921. Trump had initially planned a campaign rally in Tulsa on Friday but later rescheduled to Saturday after learning about the significance of the holiday.

A closer look at some recent developments:

  • Breonna Taylor's death: Louisville police is firing officer Brett Hankison, one of three officers to fire weapons at her apartment. Taylor was shot eight times and died.

  • Rayshard Brooks' funeral will be held Tuesday at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Thursday, police officers called out sick to protest the firing of Garrett Rolfe, the officer who shot him.

  • In nearby Decatur, Georgia, a 112-year-old Confederate monument that has become a flashpoint for protests was removed by a crane amid shouts of "Just drop it!"

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.

Fractured skulls, lost eyes: In an investigation into law-enforcement actions at protests across the country, Kaiser Health News and USA TODAY found that some officers appear to have violated their department's rules when they fired "less lethal" projectiles at protesters who were for the most part peacefully assembled.

Louisville police to fire officer involved in Breonna Taylor shooting

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday that Louisville Metro Police is terminating officer Brett Hankison, one of three officers who fired weapons at Breonna Taylor's apartment, killing her.

Taylor was shot March 13 as the officers entered to serve a no-knock warrant. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot as officers entered, thinking they were intruders, and Taylor was hit eight times in the ensuing gunfire from officers.

Hankison is accused by the department's interim chief, Robert Schroeder, of "blindly" firing 10 rounds into the apartment, creating a substantial danger of death and serious injury.

"I find your conduct a shock to the conscience," Schroeder wrote in a Friday letter to Hankison laying out the charges against him. "I am alarmed and stunned you used deadly force in this fashion."

Sam Aguiar, a Louisville-based attorney for Taylor's family, said of the impending firing: "It's about damn time."

The other two officers have been placed on administrative reassignment.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron has not indicated when his office will conclude its probe into the case.

- Maureen Groppe and Tim Willert

Trump honors the 'indomitable spirit' of Black Americans in Juneteenth statement

President Donald Trump, in an official White House statement, called for a "memorable celebration" of Juneteenth on Friday to "pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of African Americans."

"For millions of African Americans, Juneteenth has served as an opportunity to celebrate the fundamental truth that all people are created equal and that liberty is a right endowed by our Creator," he said.

The president said he and first lady Melania Trump send "our best wishes for a memorable celebration" of Juneteenth, which commemorates the ending of slavery in the U.S. following the Civil War.

"Across our country, the contributions of African Americans continue to enrich every facet of American life," Trump said. "This Juneteenth, as we vow always to uphold the God-given rights of all Americans, we pay tribute to the indomitable spirit of African Americans."

His Friday comments come after he told the Wall Street Journal this week that he helped bring attention to Juneteenth: "I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous," Trump said. "It's actually an important event, an important time. But nobody had ever heard of it."

Atlanta police call out sick Thursday night

A barrage of sick calls from Atlanta police officers continued Thursday night as members of the force protested murder charges against fired officer Garrett Rolfe. Prosecutors brought felony murder and 10 other charges against Rolfe, a white officer, after the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man.

Interim Chief Rodney Bryant told The Associated Press sick calls began Wednesday and continued Thursday, but said the department has sufficient staff to protect the city. It's not clear how many officers have called out.

"Some are angry. Some are fearful. Some are confused on what we do in this space. Some may feel abandoned," Bryant said of the officers. "But we are there to assure them that we will continue to move forward and get through this."

Crane swoops away 112-year-old Confederate monument in Georgia

Hundreds gathered and watched a crane remove a stone obelisk in Decatur, Georgia, on the eve of Juneteenth amid jeers and chants of "Just drop it!"

The monument in the Atlanta suburb was among those around the country that became flashpoints for protests over police brutality and racial injustice in recent weeks following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. The monument to the Lost Cause that was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy was often vandalized and marked by graffiti.

Senators plan to introduce bill to designate Juneteenth as national holiday

Sen. Kamala Harris announced Thursday that a group of Senate Democrats will introduce a bill that declares Juneteenth a national holiday.

"Together with my colleagues Cory Booker, Tina Smith, and Ed Markey, we are proposing that Juneteenth be a national holiday. And we are dropping that bill saying that Juneteenth should be a national holiday," Harris told MSNBC's Joy Reid.

Harris' announcement comes after Sen. John Cornyn said Thursday he would introduce similar legislation. "Texans have celebrated this end to slavery for 155 years. It's an opportunity to reflect on how far we've come and a reminder of how far we still have to go," Cornyn said on Twitter.

Pennsylvania cop fired for 'derogatory' email about Black people, journalists and politicians

A longtime Pennsylvania police officer was fired Thursday after sending a "racist and derogatory" email to the mayor and local news reporters.

Erie Mayor Joe Schember announced the firing of 62-year-old Sgt. Jeff Annunziata at a press conference, alongside Police Chief Dan Spizarny. In his email, Annunziata said Black people seeking social justice "cannot take care of their own or anyone else without playing the race card." He also defended his profession and criticized journalists.

"Sgt. Jeff Annunziata sent an email to members of the media containing racist and derogatory statements," Schember said. "I condemn these statements. I am appalled and disgusted by the racial insensitivity of this email."

- Kevin Flowers and Madeleine O'Neill, Erie (Pa.) Times-News

Georgia nonprofit says it raised $250K for fired Atlanta officer Garrett Rolfe

The Georgia Law Enforcement Organization started a fundraiser for fired Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe, who is facing a felony murder charge in connection to the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks.

The nonprofit announced Thursday in a Facebook post it had raised $250,000 for Rolfe's legal fees. In multiple posts, the organization has called the arrest of Rolfe "political." The fundraiser was started Wednesday.

"As you can imagine, we have been overwhelmed at the support we have received for Officer Rolfe," the organization wrote in a Facebook post.

- Jordan Culver

More on protests

  • President Trump takes credit for popularizing Juneteenth. "Nobody had ever heard of it" Trump said.

  • Third bullet in Rayshard Brooks' shooting hit a witness' SUV.

  • Rayshard Brooks opened up about struggles, incarceration months before death. He wasn't going to 'give up'.

Trump warns 'protesters, anarchists, agitators' to stay away from Tulsa; mayor lifts emergency curfew

While President Donald Trump warned "protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes" Friday not to come to Oklahoma during his weekend campaign rally in Tulsa, the mayor of the city lifted a "civil emergency" curfew saying the Secret Service said it was no longer necessary.

The president, who has charged that some cities and states led by Democrats have not cracked down on protest violence, tweeted that demonstrators headed for Oklahoma will find "a much different scene!." He did not elaborate.

"Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis," he tweeted.

Tulsa Mayor G. T. Bynum had declared a "civil emergency" and imposed the curfew, citing expected crowds of more than 100,000, planned protests and civil unrest, including a warning of organized, violent gangs heading for the city.

Trump, however, announced the lifting of the curfew on Twitter.

Meanwhile, another potential rally stumbling block fell Friday after the Oklahoma Supreme Court denied a request for a temporary injunction to block the event over health concerns.

On Thursday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, a Republican, told the president that the state is ready to host the rally, dismissing warnings from health officials about hosting a large gathering during the coronavirus pandemic.

- John Fritze, David Jackson and Nicholas Wu

Rayshard Brooks' funeral scheduled for Tuesday; won't be open to public

Rayshard Brooks' funeral will take place Tuesday at Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church and won't be open to the public or media, the law firm representing his family said. The service will be livestreamed.

There will be a viewing at the same church the day before, scheduled for 3-7 p.m. and open to the public but with no cameras allowed. Organizers said masks will be required and social distance guidelines will be followed at both events.

Portraits of House Speakers who served in Confederacy removed

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi ordered the removal of four portraits in the U.S. Capitol of former Speakers of the House who served in the Confederacy, a symbolic gesture to honor Juneteenth on Friday as the country continues to protest over systemic racism and police brutality.

Pelosi, at her weekly news conference, said she wrote a letter to House Clerk Cheryl Johnson requesting the removal of portraits of the four former House Speakers, who all served in the 1880s, because "there's no room in the hallowed halls of this democracy, this temple of democracy to memorialize people who embody violent bigotry and grotesque racism of the Confederacy."

She said the removal would be happening Friday, which would mark the Juneteenth holiday, but instead the large portraits were taken down Thursday afternoon, just hours after Pelosi sent her letter to Johnson.

- Christal Hayes

Kentucky AG won't put timetable on Breonna Taylor shooting investigation

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron declined on Thursday to say when his office will conclude its investigation into the conduct of officers involved in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor.

"An investigation of this magnitude, when done correctly, requires time and patience," Cameron said. "We will do what is right. We will find the truth."

Cameron, speaking at a news conference, also reiterated that the investigation is "ongoing" and did not announce any decision relating to charges. He also declined to speak about many specifics of the investigation, including whether the scope of the case has expanded beyond the three officers who fired their weapons.

"I'd also like to say to all those involved in this case, you have my commitment that our office is undertaking a thorough and fair investigation," he said. "This is also a commitment I'm making to the Louisville community, which has suffered tremendously in the days since March 13."

- Darcy Costello and Tessa Duvall, The Courier Journal (Louisville, Ky.)

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Breonna Taylor cop fired; Juneteenth; Atlanta police sick out: Updates


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